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This is 40ish: Body & Health – Stress

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Body & Health: Stress

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#ThisIs40ish

We asked: What stresses you out the most?

Chatelaine surveyed 1,000 Canadian women between the ages of 35 and 45 to find out how much stress they’re under, how often they’re ticked off and when they last laughed so hard they cried.

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The Basics

What is your relationship status?

  • Married49%
  • Common law19%
  • Dating someone8%
  • Single25%

What is your employment status?

  • Working full-time54%
  • Working part-time13%
  • Full-time mom9%
  • Self-employed8%
  • Not working right now15%

Do you have kids?

  • Yes, they live with me full-time60%
  • Yes, they live with me part-time3%
  • Yes, they don’t live with me4%
  • No34%

The number-one word women use to describe how they feel? Tired.

Other Answers

“good,” “happy,” “stressed,” “exhausted,” “anxious,” “average,” “blah.”

86 percent of women experience stress in their lives. 29 percent say they feel a great deal of stress.

We Ask

Are we more stressed than we used to be?

“The issue of work-life balance really started in the ’90s. Larger companies downsized into smaller companies, which meant more work demands and longer hours; costs of living went up, so families with one income needed two; new technologies like laptops and cellphones meant you started to take work home. So it’s nothing new — but the flavour and intensity of it can be different. And we have worked in the past five or 10 years to reduce the stigma around stress and mental health. Because though every age comes with its own stressors, this age for women means a lot of juggling: work responsibilities, child care, elder care, household debt, household chores, relationships. Normalizing talk around this stress encourages people to seek help and report it.” — Dr. Katy Kamkar, clinical psychologist at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

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81 percent say money causes them a lot of or some stress. What else makes us tense?

The Nitty-Gritty
  • Kids78%
  • Work66%
  • Health concerns62%
  • No personal time59%
  • Relationships58%
  • Family commitments57%

77 percent say stress translates into sleep problems. And 59 percent say stress affects their relationships with others.

We Ask

How can our exhausted selves better cope with stress?

We know, from stacks of research and a lifetime of experience, that stress wreaks havoc on our ability to sleep. There’s a pretty solid evolutionary reason for that: Survival generally depends on not dozing off when danger is near. But there’s a catch, too, which is that when we’re exhausted, we’re far likelier to see unclear social situations in a negative light. A colleague left you off the group email for after-work drinks? She didn’t make an honest mistake — she must hate you. And then you explode. “Research suggests that sleep deprivation triggers heightened emotional reactions to negative information and makes it difficult for us to control our behaviour,” says Larissa Barber, a psychology professor at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

Of course, that explosion is rarely directed at our colleagues; Barber’s work confirms that we tend to take out our frustrations on people at home. More than half of Chatelaine’s respondents say when they lose their temper, they lose it on their partner or kids. But wait! Barber discovered a way to break this vicious cycle of stress, sleeplessness and tantrums. In a February 2017 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, she found that people who exercised had no trouble keeping their negative emotions in check. She could even get specific: Average more than 10,500 steps a day, or burn at least 2,100 calories, and you probably won’t act like a jerk — even if your sleep is as junky as ever. “It gives us a new perspective on the importance of exercise,” Barber says. “It’s not just good for you, it’s good for your relationships at home too.”

37 percent of women exercise to deal with stress. But more take time alone (53 percent) or talk it out with family and friends (42 percent).

Excerise
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A third have laughed so hard within the past week they cried. 20 percent haven’t laughed that hard in the past year.

Laughter
We Ask

What makes you scream with laughter?

“Videos of animals doing incongruous things. Last night, I watched a video of a turtle chasing a ball. What would he do if he caught it? There’s a whole subgenre involving videos of dogs trying to walk in boots. If I’m feeling pissed off at humanity, if people have really been sticking in my craw, watching animals earnestly give it their all — even when destined to fail — is really inspiring.” – Gretchen, 37

52 percent have lost their temper in the past week. 7 percent lose their temper serveral times a day.

We Ask

What makes you scream with anger?

“Cilantro. It looks all green and innocent, but it leaves you spitting out something that tastes as though someone’s poured a gallon of soap all over your nice food. And it’s not like you can just pick out cilantro, because even a tiny shred taints everything else. You get a salad, and you think it’s topped with Italian parsley, which is a perfectly reasonable, neutral herb, and then that first bite: soap. And that’s it. That’s lunch ruined.” – Nina, 43

36 percent are yellers. How else do women express their anger?

The Nitty-Gritty
  • They cry17%
  • They get defensive13%
  • They retreat12%
  • They swallow their anger9%
  • They get mean9%
  • Other5%
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84 percent do not believe anger is unfeminine.

Anger

Methodology

Our online survey was conducted by Abacus Data with 1,000 women between 35 and 45 in Canada, January 3–5, 2017. A random sample of panellists were invited to complete the survey from a large representative panel of Canadians, recruited and managed by Research Now, one of the world’s leading providers of online research samples. For complete methodology, visit chatelaine.com.

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Stress

What happens to your body when stress hits, what causes it, and which coping methods actually work.

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Causes of stress, symptoms, prevention and treatment Feeling stressed? Sometimes stress, the body’s mental and physical reaction to certain events, both good and bad, can be helpful, but stress becomes problematic when a person has difficulty dealing with its effects. The way a person reacts to stress can impact their mental and physical health. If stress is ongoing, it can boost the risk of diseases such as depression and heart disease. Stress causes Coping with stress — which may be caused by external forces and events, such as work, family-related issues and other occurrences — results in the body undergoing a stress response: the body releases adrenaline, then  stored sugars and fats, which provoke feelings of pressure and fatigue. During this phase, a person may drink more coffee or alcohol, or experience anxiety. Chronic stress can cause insomnia and serious illness, such as heart disease or mental illness. Stress symptoms Signs of stress include feelings of irritability, sadness or guilt; anxiety or depression; trouble sleeping; fatigue; headaches; high blood pressure; diarrhea, constipation or upset stomach; back pain; shortness of breath; change in weight or appetite; and neck and shoulder tension. Stress diagnosis/tests There’s no specific test for diagnosing stress but if you’re concerned about your stress levels or your ability to cope with stress, talk to your doctor who may run blood and urine tests and take your medical history and family health history to rule out a medical condition or mental health disorder. Stress treatment Counseling may help a person who is struggling to cope with stress. Relaxation exercises, such as meditation, activate the body’s relaxation response, which helps the body counteract stress. Exercise and relaxation exercises help release pent-up energy and tension and release feel-good brain chemicals. Stress prevention Pinpointing what makes you stressed is essential so that you are aware of what you need to avoid or manage better. • When you feel stress mounting, breathe deeply to calm yourself, avoid junk food and sugar which provide a temporary fix but will make you feel more irritable later when your blood sugar drops. • Cut back on caffeine and drink more water to keep your body and brain hydrated. • Exercise 30 minutes five times weekly. • Get enough sleep to feel rested and do relaxation exercises to help relieve daily tension. If you’re finding it hard to cope with the amount of stress in your job or life in general, talk to your health care provider. More info from Chatelaine Eat to beat stress Is feeling stress making you sick? How to relieve stress with exercise Are you a stress spender? Outside resources Health Canada Canadian Mental Health Association